Winter is coming, and your garage is still packed with your mother-in-law’s old furniture that you had promised to auction off months ago. While the Victorian-era living-room set slumbers beside your mountain bikes, your car will be sitting out the season in the cold and taking the brunt of the bad weather. Faced with this predicament, you might want to consider a car cover.

The car cover is a concept that has been around nearly as long as there have been cars to cover. After all, a car parked for the long term will be exposed to a myriad of pesky, paint-damaging annoyances. If your car is outside, there’s the weather to contend with; inside, dust and critters will both try to hunker down in the nooks and crannies of your pride and joy. Wherever you park your car for a season, trouble is likely to follow.

Combating all this is the job of the car cover, which affords paint, interior, and maybe even underbody protection (on the fanciest covers, at least). For a modest amount of money, a car cover will swaddle your car in a fabric blanket, providing peace of mind during long term storage. For the right consumer, car covers are well worth the money – but do your needs merit a car cover?

Let’s explore who exactly will benefit from using a car cover and the various types and styles of car covers now on the market.

Should I Buy a Car Cover?

Car covered in Leaves

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Car covers are great purchases -for the right buyer. If you’re driving your car every day or close to it, the last thing you’ll want to do is pull a car cover on and off every time you need to run to the store.

So who exactly is the target market for a car cover? There are actually a few buyers who might benefit from one. They include:

Car Collectors and Enthusiasts. A collector is inevitably discerning – they hold themselves to a lofty standard when it comes to the preservation and upkeep of their collection, even if that collection is just a single summer driver. For those who have a fun, seasonal car that they don’t drive often – and maybe not for the entirety of the winter season – a car cover should be considered an essential purchase.

Long-term travelers. In this age of remote work and digital nomadism, the location-independent among us might be making plans to take their laptops on a long-awaited global adventure. Or maybe less glamorous circumstances have you leaving home for an extended period of time. Whatever your reason, if you’re taking an extended trip, a car cover is a great way to protect your car from dust, dirt, and debris while you’re gone.

Infrequent drivers. Maybe you’re not traveling anywhere exotic. Maybe you’re not traveling anywhere at all. If you’re a homebody by choice or circumstance and your car is consequently seeing infrequent use, a car cover could be a good investment.

What Type of Car Covers Can I Buy?

Car covers generally fall in one of two camps: custom-fit covers and universal-fit covers. Custom-fit versions are exactly what they sound like: they are made for your specific make and model, using the exact dimensions of your car for a perfect fit. Ill-fitment or unappealing bagginess aren’t concerns with this type of cover. Of course, it’s the pricier type of car cover, but it looks slick once fitted and also provides superior protection thanks to its tighter, truer fit.

If you’ve shopped custom-fit covers and couldn’t stomach the price, universal-fit options are still a great choice. They come in a variety of predetermined sizes that roughly correspond to most vehicle classes – though good luck covering your heavy-duty dually pickup truck. Otherwise, you can get covers measuring well over 20 feet – and often costing well under $100. They are affordable and effective, especially the soft, washable cotton ones for indoor use.

But What if My Car Sits Outside?

Cars Parked Outside

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Then you’ll need to be a bit more judicious on which cover you purchase. Lots of brands make claims that their covers are all-season, but take a close look at customer product reviews to ensure that what you’re getting measures up to what the manufacturer claims.1 Better yet, check out our own guide on the best car covers on the market.

Generally, the best thing to look for when shopping for outdoor covers is a waterproof yet breathable material. It will inevitably rain or snow on your cover, and you want to ensure that water doesn’t get trapped underneath the cover – if so, it could cause more damage than if the car hadn’t been covered at all. Breathability helps with evaporating or whisking away any water that finds its way through or under the cover.

Also, make sure an outdoor cover features eyelets that can be used to secure the cover with rope. If the wind suddenly picks up, the last thing you’ll want is to go chasing your runaway cover through your neighbor’s yard.

Can’t a Car Cover Damage my Paint?

Yes, it could, but only if you use it incorrectly or carelessly. Covering a dirty car, for instance, all but guarantees a fresh set of fine scratches thanks to the cover inevitably rubbing or pressing the dirt into the paint.

The best thing to do is wash and towel-dry your car thoroughly before installing a car cover. Even better, detail and clay-bar your paint to ensure the slickest, smoothest, dirt-free surface possible. If you cover your car promptly after washing it, you won’t be trapping dirt under the cover – and won’t scratch your car.

There are a few risks you take when you choose to cover your car, though, so you’ll want to weigh your options before making a decision.2

So, Are Car Covers Worth It?

We certainly think so. Anyone who doesn’t drive their car for extended periods should look into a cover to protect the paint, chrome, rubber, and even the interior. It keeps overly curious observers from smudging the glass with nose- or fingerprints and will block out the sun and its harmful UV rays. Car covers take the everyday wear and tear brought on by the weather and environment in an effort to spare your car. That means less risk of cosmetic damage and less need to fret about washing or dusting your car while it’s in storage. For us, that makes a car cover well worth the money.

Article Sources

Ride Digest uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Hasan, Atif A. Suggestion of New Double Layers Car Covers to Reduce the Environment Effect on Car Cabin through Parked Unshaded Area. Al-Rafidain University College For Sciences. 2020; (47), 59-76. Accessed 24 Sept 2021.
  2. Question Answered: Can Car Covers Scratch or Damage Paint? CarwashCountry.com. Accessed 24 Sept 2021.